Social shopping is reducing the gap between liking a product on social media and making a purchase at a social shopping website
Social shopping as the natural extension to social media user behaviour
In today’s world of social media, social shopping is the natural extension to ecommerce as customers look towards seamless shopping experience at social shopping websites. As customers are already on the social media sites, the use of social media for shopping allows them to shop directly through an online retailer’s social media page or social shopping websites, simplifying the shopping process. People are using the social media for shopping more than ever to discover new brands, engage with their familiar brands and to research products.
This trend is more popular among millennials as Salesforce data suggests that over half of them do so.
According to a Business Insider Intelligence research, social networks have emerged as the fastest-growing channel for driving traffic to online retailer websites, as the world’s top 500 retailers earned nearly £5 billion in revenue – an increase of 24 per cent on the year before – from social shopping in 2017. This shows a rise in the popularity of social shopping websites and endorses their role as a major shopping channel in the future.
Incorporating new technologies into social shopping
This trend has led online retailers to incorporate a variety of technologies and marketing tools into their ecommerce platforms to engage potential customers and provide them with an enhanced shopping experience. These social shopping websites are implementing new features into their websites to make shopping experience at their website through the social media, richer than ever.
The challenge of turning social media ‘likes’ into sales
However, the challenge for businesses lies in converting the social media ‘likes’ into sales data. Fulfilling this gap between raising customer awareness for a brand’s products or services and measurable sales, incorporates a number of factors such as the quality of product, price tag, performance against competition, quality of follow up by the sales team and handling customer queries quickly and efficiently to the customer’s satisfaction.
After-sales support plays a vital role in customer satisfaction which raises customer trust in the brand and helps in widening a brand’s customer base through the word of mouth, increasing the possibility of future ‘likes’-to-sales conversions. An existing customer is the vital link between the current customer base and the customer base a brand aims for.
According to a survey by Bizrate Insights in August 2019, in the US, social commerce was preferred by consumers over other options such as visual search, augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR) and voice commerce via smart speakers. The survey found that more than one-third of US consumers had purchased products through social media. Among the 66% who did not use social media for shopping, 27% were likely to use it for shopping in the future. This was an increase from a poll in November 2018, when 29% of respondents engaged in social commerce transaction, while 71% didn’t.
Therefore, the popularity of social shopping sites cannot be underestimated by any business. Using social media for marketing is the demand of the time and should be implemented by a business if it has not done that already.
Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and Facebook
The rise in user engagement with social commerce in the last year corresponds to the introduction of new social commerce features by Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat.
Instagram launched its social commerce feature, Checkout in March.
Pinterest enhanced its shopping features in anticipation of its IPO in March.
Snapchat launched a social commerce feature called “Shop and Cop”.
Facebook is set to be another contender in the social commerce landscape as it plans to make a shift from being a social media platform to retail. In June 2019 it announced its long term plans to become a retail rather than social media platform. As a social media giant in the present times, the move planned by the social networking giant indicates the role social shopping will play in the future.
The success of the social commerce technologies has led to the adoption of these technologies more than that of other retail technologies. Research is going on over more social commerce technologies to shorten the customer journey.
Role of mobile phones in social shopping
One factor that is contributing to the rise of social shopping websites is mobile phone. Mobile shopping is the buzz word today which is taking over social shopping in a big way. According to recent surveys, millennials are now shopping from everywhere. They prefer mobile shopping over other ways and expect totally seamless transactions.
Instagram has introduced its shoppable post which simplifies shopping with its two-click process. It enables retailers to ‘tag’ their products in posts with a direct link to the relevant listing on their site. On the customer part, it requires two taps on their smartphones to purchase a product from the social media post. It gives consumers the opportunity to buy products without leaving the app on their smartphones.
Snapchat offers a visual product search feature. It allows users to scan physical objects via their app in order to bring up product information, price and similar items.
Mobile phone payments
As majority of social media engagement takes place on mobile phones, payment methods should be optimised towards that and offer payment choices other than a mainstream debit or credit card. It has been found that almost one-fourth of consumers abandon their transactions at point of purchase as they don’t find their preferred payment choices.
Building a loyal customer base
One of the core features of brands is to build a loyal customer base, which comes down to reengaging existing and past customers and underpins stable revenue growth. Apart from engaging new customers, which is a precursor to reengaging an existing customer, savvy brands focus on building upon existing trust to establish long-term relationships and encourage consumers to make repeat purchases.
Utilising user-generated content
Another way for brands to widen their sphere of influence is to utilise user-generated content which has been put to a strong effect by social shopping websites like Au Revoir Cinderella and Dollar Shave Club. Some social shopping websites encourage users to share images of the products they have purchased, turning them into ‘micro influencers’. Despite this role of the social media platforms in shopper behaviour, a number of business are yet to provide the share functionality on their sites.
So, as an increasing number of physical stores focus on their online version, social shopping has indeed become a crowded place and requires innovative steps to engage customers.
Importance of quality supply chain
However, some points should be kept in mind while engaging consumers through the social media which, otherwise, may result in low user ratings and undermine the business. According to Brightpearl, 77% of 1-3 star reviews by customers were attributed to typical operations failures such as poor customer service, or negative experiences related to delivery, return and refund policies. Brightpearl looked at 29,000 1-3 star reviews rating the service of ecommerce businesses for its study. This means issues with supply chain and deliveries may have a severe impact on future sales and reputation of a business and the overall prospects of a business due to lost sales.
Therefore, it is all about making customer journeys as short and seamless as possible by reducing the effort a customer puts in between liking a product and completing the purchase.